Drinking Water Source Protection Program (DWSP2) - April Newsletter

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Drinking Water Source Protection Program - April Newsletter

This issue's topics:

  • Taking Action through WQIP
    • What is WQIP?
    • WQIP and FLLT Recap
    • Q&A with Lois Lounsbery
    • How can I get involved?

Taking Action through WQIP

In our February Newsletter, we introduced Lenore Boris, owner of a 13 acre parcel located a few miles outside of the City of Ithaca. Lenore partnered with Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) to place a conservation easement on her property for the purpose of protecting the City’s source water using funding from the state’s Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) Program.

In this newsletter we are excited to introduce another FLLT project, the Lois Lounsbery property, that further protects the City of Ithaca’s drinking water source for generations to come using the same state funded FLLT - WQIP partnership.

What is WQIP?

WQIP is an umbrella program that provides targeted grant funding for six project types that directly address documented water quality impairments or protect a drinking water source. One of these project types is Land Acquisition for Source Water Protection. This project type protects sources of public drinking water by providing funds for the purchase of parcels and/or conservation easements for land in key areas of an active public drinking water supply’s source area. Land acquisition has long been a great implementation strategy for protecting a public drinking water source, and now there are state funds available to cover a majority of the cost.

Since 2017, DEC has worked with and provided funding to over 25 municipalities and land trusts across the state in a partnership to protect public drinking water sources of all sizes.

WQIP and FLLT Recap

FLLT has received WQIP Land Acquisition grant funding for several land acquisition projects to protect public drinking water sources within their region. One such project was to protect the drinking water supply of the City of Ithaca by partnering with local landowners.

Revisit the February newsletter to learn more about WQIP and the Finger Lakes Land Trust.
Once again, we were privileged to meet with a landowner FLLT worked with who provides her unique prospective on how she was able to protect the City’s public drinking water supply.

Q&A with Lois Lounsbery, Landowner and WQIP Partner 

The property, referred to here as the Lounsbery Farm, is a 125-acre property within the six-mile creek watershed, just outside the City of Ithaca. The property features approximately 48 acres of forest and more than nine acres of wetlands. These naturally occurring features contribute to critical source water protection, helping to slow runoff after storm events, filtering and absorbing pollutants, and reducing drinking water treatment costs.

Falls on the Lounsbery property taken 100 years apart.

These two photos of the falls found on the property were take 100 years apart. The second photo is from a century earlier when a dam was built to use waterpower to operate a sawmill. 

So how did Lois come to work with FLLT to protect her beautiful property and the City of Ithaca’s drinking water source? Lois attended FLLT’s very first organizational meeting approximately 25 years ago because protecting her family’s farmland has always been a priority for her. Around 2015, Lois had applied to another protection program through the county prior to this opportunity. Although she was not approved for funding under that program, she and the FLLT were able to use that information for the WQIP grant application. It was around Thanksgiving of 2017 that Lois received the good news that the WQIP grant had been approved. In May of 2021, the project was finalized.

We asked Lois a few questions about the property and her motivations for working with FLLT. Let’s see what she had to say:

Q: State Source Water Team: Could you provide us with an overview of your property?

A: Lois: I live on the family farm (Lounsbery Farm). It has been in the family for many generations, more than 150 years. The property was originally acquired by my fourth-great-grandfather who was attracted by the fertile soil and the creek running through it. It was my great grandfather who started the farm here, after inheriting the land from his father around the mid-1800s. When I was growing up, the farm was used for dairy and poultry and the fields were used to grow crops to feed the animals. No one in my generation took over the active farming, so the land is now leased to a local farmer. The local farmer uses the fields to grow crops and pasture a small heard of sheep.

A man sitting on a bench with two small children

Cantine Lounsbery, Lois' great grandfather who started the farm, with 2 of his 7 grandchildren.

Q: State Source Water Team: What was your main reason for protecting your farm?

A: Lois: We are so close to Ithaca which is continuing to be a very prime area for building and expanding. The idea that the farm would be sold off for development has always been a fear of mine. So, any opportunity that would come up about protection, I have always been right on it. The DEC approach was different because the emphasis was on water quality. We have a beautiful creek (Six Mile Creek) that is basically the whole southern border of the farm, over 6,000 feet of frontage. This is what qualified the farm to be considered for this grant. It was a real sweet spot for me because it is something that is worth preserving. The family history behind this land is part of the reason for protecting it too.

Trees with sunlight peeking through the canopy

A wooded area found on the Lounsbery farm. 

Lois may be the last in her family to live on the farm. She is happy it will be protected against urban sprawl in the future. 

Q: Source Water Team: Did you learn anything new about your land while engaging in this project?

A: Lois: In the final paperwork that was drawn up, there was a list of the various plants and trees on the property. I was amazed at the list. There were things I have never even heard of and that I had to look up. I cannot say I could go out and identify all of them, but I know they are out there somewhere, so that is really nice. Someday I will probably print out a photo of each and take a long hike on the property.

Q: State Source Water Team: What advice might you give to others working with a land trust?

A: Lois: Well, I cannot speak for any other land trust, but I can certainly say the FLLT is just superb and wonderful. FLLT staff approached me about the program before I had even heard about it. They have just been wonderful. They were sensitive to my needs, questions, and any reservations I may have had. I did have a lot of questions about how the land was going to be divided up into the different zones as part of the FLLT surveying process. There is an agricultural management zone (to allow for farming activities), a residential zone (includes existing houses and barns), a forest protection zone, and of course, the environmental protection zone (encompasses six-mile creek and its frontage). The surveying was a big deal. The person at FLLT that I worked with was so tolerant. I just felt like I could trust everyone that was there, completely. I could not have done this on my own. I would definitely recommend it! 

Each zone allows for certain activities while still being protective of the public drinking water source, Six Mile Creek. 

Q: State Source Water Team: What is your favorite activity to do on your land?

A: Lois: It has always been walking. It is a wonderful place. Especially since the pandemic. I almost felt guilty that I could walk over 125 acres. It was automatic social distancing. As kids we would swim down at the creek, although it was a hike to get there, and in the winter, we would ice skate on the pond.

                      Two children ice skating on a frozen pond. 

                                  Ice skating on the Lounsbery pond in the mid 1950’s, another favorite activity of Lois’.

Lois certainly has a passion for protecting land and the environment and it was great to hear how partnering with Finger Lakes Land Trust and WQIP were able to make her goal a reality. You may have a similar passion or goal as Lois and are wondering what you can do. Let’s find out.

How can I get involved?

Are you interested in protecting your drinking water source and have a parcel of land that may be suitable? Good news! Your municipality or local land trust may be looking for interested landowners such as yourself to work with. Contact your local municipality, land trust, or the DEC to see how you can aid with source water protection efforts.

Useful Links!

A one-stop-shop for links found throughout this newsletter.

Share Your Thoughts

Have you begun the DWSP2 process? Or do you have a program or are you aware of a program relevant to source water? Send in any helpful hints or information at source.water@dec.ny.gov and we may highlight them!

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